Cotton industry observers from farmers to economists believe 2010 will bring increased cotton production in the Rolling Plains of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Speaking at a recent cotton production meeting at the Oklahoma State University Southwest Research and Extension Center here, Stan Bevers, Texas A&M University agricultural economist in Vernon said U.S. farmers could harvest 9.75 million acres of cotton in 2010.

"Average yield could be 820 pounds of lint cotton per acre," he said. "This will make up 16.7 million bales for this year in the United States."

Bevers said cotton could bring 75cents to 77 cents per pound.

Shane Osborne, Oklahoma State University Extension cotton specialist, listed the basic and most important factors for cotton farmers to consider in growing a top cotton crop.

"Timing is very important," he said. "It is critical to be ahead of seasonal changes rather than having to rush to offset problems.

"It is important to choose the right varieties that work best locally and to conduct soil tests before the season begins. Cotton needs good soil moisture for planting. Before planting, it is best to have a temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and to select a time with good weather likely for at least 10 days.

"We recommend planting rates of 35,000 to 40,000 seeds per acre for dryland cotton and 40,000 to 45,000 seeds per acre for irrigated cotton."

Terry Pitts, OSU Extension integrated pest management specialist, said the cotton fleahopper has become an important pest for cotton farmers to combat every year. Pitts cautioned farmers to be aware of the presence of beneficial insects in their fields when considering applying insecticides to control fleahoppers.

Jason Woodward, Texas A&M University Extension plant pathologist in Lubbock, explained that cotton growers are having problems with several plant diseases.

"Bacterial blight and verticillium wilt are becoming worse in Texas and Oklahoma cotton," he said. "And alternaria leaf spot has become a problem later in the growing season if a potassium deficiency exists in the plants and heavy rain occurs in the early fall."

JC Banks, OSU Extension state cotton specialist, wrapped up the morning program with an overview of the changes in cotton production during the past 20 years.

"Both boll weevil control and transgenic cotton varieties with tolerance for herbicide applications to control weeds and resistance to both insect and plant diseases have increased cotton yields," he said. "Better equipment technology has helped farmers do a more precise job of planting and harvesting cotton."

Banks explained while cotton acreage today is only half what it was 20 years ago, improved production practices, better varieties and weevil eradication doubled per acre yields in modern cotton farming.